Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Sunday, 28 June 2009
Saturday, 27 June 2009
Friday, 26 June 2009
Thursday, 25 June 2009
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Despite all the security measures and the confusion on whether Moussavi has called for the people to gather outside the Islamic Assembly in Baharestan Sq or not, people have started to converge towards the square. Many are wearing black arm bands and holding pictures of Neda.One girl has been shot already and not known whether she is alive or dead.
I was going towards Baharestan with my friend. This was everyone, not just supporters of one candidate or another. All of my friends, they were going to Baharestan to express our opposition to these killings and demanding freedom. The black-clad police stopped everyone. They emptied the buses that were taking people there and let the private cars go on. We went on until Ferdowsi then all of a sudden some 500 people with clubs came out of [undecipherable] mosque and they started beating everyone. They tried to beat everyone on [undecipherable] bridge and throwing them off of the bridge. And everyone also on the sidewalks. They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood and her husband, he fainted. They were beating people like hell. It was a massacre. They were trying to beat people so they would die. they were cursing and saying very bad words to everyone. This was exactly a massacre...
More evidence here (warning: extremely graphic images), including confirmation of reports that militia are using axes against male demonstrators and beating women with metal pipes.
Finally managed to embed the video with the eyewitness account:
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Yesterday, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said this:
The burqa is not a religious sign, it's a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement.
Is there any secular liberal or feminist who, in their heart of hearts, does not believe this, and who doesn’t agree with Sarkozy that women swathed in black from head to toe are ‘prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity’ ?
If not, then what’s the problem, and why are the French president’s comments being reported as ‘controversial’?
Perhaps it's because he also said that the burqa ‘will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic’. In other words, he moved from declaring a perfectly reasonable point of view – to arguing that this opinion should be enforced by law.
My immediate response when I heard about Sarkozy's speech was a divided one. On the one hand, I thought this was yet another example of a rather absurd politician exceeding the bounds of his authority, and found it worrying that states might abrogate the power to decide what people could or couldn't wear. On the other hand, I found it refreshing to hear a political leader say out loud what most secular liberals think, but are usually afraid to declare in public for fear of upsetting fundamentalists, or (in the case of politicians) losing the votes of 'faith communities'.
Those who are tempted to condemn Sarkozy’s views as right-wing or 'Islamophobic' need to be aware of the context. According to the BBC, his remarks were a response ‘to a call last week by a group of 65 cross-party MPs, led by the Communist Andre Gerin, who wants a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the spread of the burqa in France.' Apparently Gerin believes that the burqa 'amounts to a breach of individual freedom on our national territory'. And the French human rights minister, Reme Yede, who is herself a Muslim, has said she would be prepared to contemplate a ban 'if it was aimed at protecting women who wore a burqa against their will'.
What's that? Left-wingers and liberal Muslims taking a stand against religious fundamentalism and defending individual liberty and women's rights? They certainly do order things rather differently in France, don't they?
Monday, 22 June 2009
Over the last three years I have had hundreds of conversations with people about life in Iran. I have long believed Iran’s to be a deeply repressed society in which freedom is curtailed in the name of religion and by an assortment of ‘holy men.’ I was initially bemused when talking to people about this, good people with solid left wing principles, and having my criticisms dismissed as those of a ‘cultural imperialist,’ ‘a neo-con,’ ‘an islamaphobe,’ to name a few terms thrown my way. As time went on and I realised that these weren’t, sadly, the views of the odd person here and there on the left, but those of the left’s mainstream, I moved from bemused to shocked, to saddened and then to angry.
Looking at a society where it is codified into law that a women is worth half a man, where the morality police prowl the streets arresting men and women for such ‘unIslamic’ behaviour as holding hands, where stoning is still an allowed punishment for adultery, where children can be hanged, where being gay is a crime, I found the stance of my so called comrades on the left to be unforgivable. I also found it ridiculous. I honestly could not believe that anyone could look at this society and say that people had chosen to live like this – but it became clear that is exactly what they believed. And worse than that, despite the desperate cries for freedom we are seeing now, some of them still do.
I think Nora's absolutely right to use the word 'repressed' to describe Iranian society, and to highlight its oppression of women and obsession with sexual behaviour. Since writing this post on Saturday, I've been unable to get the picture of Neda, shot to death by the religious militia, out of my head, nor to forget the claim of an eyewitness that her murder, as she stood watching a demonstration, was cold, calculating and deliberate. Putting it together with the clips I posted here and here of security forces and government supporters beating up unarmed female demonstrators, not to mention Iran's notorious record of legalised violence towards women, and you can't help wondering about the pathological roots of this institutionalised hatred of women.
Could it be that 'repressed', in a specific, clinical sense, is exactly the word to describe the 'holy men' who rule Iran? And does their vicious misogyny stem from the puritanical repression of sexuality that is part and parcel of their twisted religious outlook? Christopher Hitchens has a great quote from a young Iranian:
I went to the last major Ahmadinejad rally and got the whiff of what I imagine fascism to have been all about. Lots of splotchy boys who can't get a date are given guns and told they're special.
As Hitchens comments: 'It's hard to better this [...] as an evocation of the rancid sexual repression that lies at the nasty core of the "Islamic republic"'.
Theocracy, sexual repression and violence towards women often seem to go hand in hand. Think of Cromwell's Puritans and their vicious campaign of 'witch' burning, or Franco's fondness for summarily hanging female Republican prisoners. This may sound like another puff for Ophelia's new book, but can anyone name me a political system, in which religious institutions have a major role, that does not oppress women? And can anyone doubt that there's a close link between theocratic sexism and the sexual repression that infects fundamentalist religiosity?
Sunday, 21 June 2009
At 19:05 June 20th
Place: Karekar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st.
A young woman who was standing aside with her father watching the protests was shot by a basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight her heart. I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim’s chest, and she died in less than 2 minutes.
The protests were going on about 1 kilometers away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gass used among them, towards Salehi St.
The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me.
Please let the world know.
Saturday, 20 June 2009
What is so shocking about many of these videos is that the armed police are willing to attack completely defenseless bystanders. This video, apparently from the university in Shiraz, shows police not in any immediate danger walking up to veiled women who are leaning against a fence and raising their batons above their heads, threatening them, and then occassionally striking them. It is pure brutality.
Friday, 19 June 2009
"If they continue they will be receiving other consequences, behind the scenes." (Ayatollah Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, 19 June 2009)
Perhaps these videos (via azarmehr) give some idea of what he means. I apologise in advance if you find them distressing, but it's important that the world sees the brutality of the regime for what it is.
The first clip shows Basij religious police attacking people in their houses:
The second video shows a young woman being beaten up by a crowd of regime supporters:
Meanwhile, the Guardian has compensated for Seamus Milne's predictably appalling article on Iran by publishing this excellent piece by Azadeh Moaveni, one of the best things I've read on the background to the reform movement. Moaveni is particularly good on the misogyny of the regime. Writing about the 2007 crackdown on 'un-Islamic' dress, she states: 'Though the campaign targeted young men as well, authorities singled out women with particular brutality'. But the key role played by women in this week's protests has given her cause for hope:
Thursday, 18 June 2009
Loach is an exponent of dire social-realism, all kitchen sink docudramas, he always aims for the lowest common denominator. His films are as erotic as an old Soviet Union tractor, and as funny as an evening in Butlin's. The scenario dished out by Loach is all very simple, a sort of manichean world point of view:Palestinians: goodIsraelis: badThe North of England: goodThe South of England: badChavez: goodThe USA: BADWork: very good (he doesn't even allow tea breaks when shooting his boring films)Money: badMan: badWoman: goodThe list is endless.
A certain Roger GARAUDY, once the chief ideologue of the French Communist Party, wayback in the sixties and seventies now lives in the best part of Cordoba, ie. the old town, and in some style. He has become a fundamentalist muslim, and a negationist to boot, who denies the Holocaust ever took place. As Nick Griffin calls it the HOLOHOAX! Garaudy would like to see Israel wipped off the face of the world. Garaudy’s odyssey is thus a strange one - or is it? It seems he always needed authoritarian beliefs in his poor life. Once he worshipped Stalin and Lenin, now it is Muhammad.
The strange thing is that we're still surprised by these alliances of extreme left and extreme right, and by the ease of movement between secular and religious totalitarianisms.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
In fact at one point, Mousavi's supporters were shouting 'thank you, thank you' to the soldiers.
One woman went up to the special forces men, who normally are very brutal with Mr Mousavi's supporters, and said 'can you protect us from the Basij?' He said 'with God's help'.
It was quite extraordinary because it looked as if the military authorities in Tehran have either taken a decision not to go on supporting the very brutal militia - which is always associated with the presidency here - or individual soldiers have made up their own mind that they're tired of being associated with the kind of brutality that left seven dead yesterday - buried, by the way secretly by the police - and indeed the seven or eight students who were killed on the university campus 24 hours earlier.
Quite a lot of policeman are beginning to smile towards the demonstrators of Mr Mousavi, who are insisting there must be a new election because Mr Ahmadinejad wasn't really elected. Quite an extraordinary scene.
That sounds promising. There's just the faintest whiff of Fiskishness right at the end of his report, where he claims that the uprising is 'absolutely not' against the Islamic republic or the Islamic revolution:
It's clearly an Islamic protest against specifically the personality, the manner, the language of Ahmadinejad. They absolutely despise him but they do not hate or dislike the Islamic republic that they live in.
Hmm. That's not how it looks from here. It may be that Mousavi and his supporters are playing a clever game, using the language of the Islamic revolution to ensure that they don't alienate the mass of the population, and don't provoke a backlash by the clerics (see this post). But those of us who long to see a modern, secular democracy emerge in Iran (and see the yearning for it in the faces, banners and chants of the mostly young protestors) live in hope of a deeper change.
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
(T)he parlance of 'revolution' is far from the lips of Iranians today. Iranians are understandably turned off by revolution-speak, given the 'revolutionary' regime they've been living under since 1979, but also - and this is critical - because of the general failure of the revolutionary Left in Iran.
The leftist, anti-imperialist ideas of the 1970s have given way to a more pragmatic discourse about economic and political dignity based on Western models of secular democracy. Iranian youth largely dismiss the radical ideas of their parents' generation, full of half-baked leftism, Marxist economics, Third World anti-imperialism, Islamist radicalism and varying shades of utopian totalitarianism. 'We just want to be normal', is typical of what hundreds of students have told me. 'We're tired of radicalism'.
Monday, 15 June 2009
Sunday, 14 June 2009
It’s been a strange fortnight. My father-in-law died two weeks ago - on my birthday as it happens. (In Through the children’s gate: a home in New York, which I’m reading at the moment, Adam Gopnik relates how the attacks of 9/11 occurred as he was celebrating his daughter’s birthday, ensuring that the two anniversaries were entwined in the ensuing years. The same will now be true of my own birthday and the more domestic catacylsm of my father-in-law’s death.) He was in his 80s and had a long-term condition, but he was living a comparatively normal life at home, and his passing was a reminder that all deaths are experienced as sudden by those close to the deceased.
The relationship between a father-in-law and son-in-law is a peculiar one. In the early days of my marriage to H., I often felt I was living through a real-life version of Harry Enfield’s famous caricature of the relationship, captured in the catchphrase, ‘You don’t want to do it like that’. It didn’t help that H’s father was something of a perfectionist, albeit a gentle and forgiving one. In checking up on their son-in-laws’ performance, I suppose fathers are really saying, in a roundabout way, that nothing is too good for their daughters. I’m sure I’ll be the same when my turn comes.
My father-in-law and I could not have been more different. He was Conservative, I was Labour; he was deferentially royalist, I was vehemently republican; he was rural, I was urban; he loved sport, I had no interest in it; he was practical, I was cackhanded and cerebral. H’s parents were the first Conservatives I’d known up close. My parents sometimes voted Tory, but their conservatism was alleviated by their socially-concerned Methodism, which occasionally induced them to vote Liberal. For my parents, voting Conservative and reading the Daily Mail seemed to be part of the inevitable package of differentiating themselves from their working- class East End roots, rather than anything more deliberate. H’s father, by contrast, was a proud member of his local Conservative association, who took his politics from the opinion pages of the Telegraph.
His conservatism, with both a big and small ‘c’, was rooted in a long tradition of rural, working-class deference, overlaid by the personal experience of transition to suburban, lower middle-class comfort and respectability, the result of promotion through the ranks of the nationalised industry for which he worked. There was a time, in my callow Marxian youth, when I would have dismissed his social and political attitudes as merely a tool for reproducing an entrenched class hierarchy. But it’s hard to maintain this stance when faced with a living, breathing representative of such views, for whom they are a way of giving value and meaning to the events of his life. Instead, I grew to respect these opinions that were so radically different from my own and to appreciate the very real qualities that went with them. My father-in-a-law was, as many people who knew him have remarked since he died, a true gentleman: not just in the externalities of his dapper dress sense (he always wore a tie, even to wash the car), but in his grace, kindness and consideration for others.
I learned to keep quiet when dinner-table conversation turned to the royal family, or the trade unions, in the same way that I tend to refrain from discussing religion when my more evangelically-minded relatives are around. (Not that my father-in-law was an unthinking reactionary. He got on well with the union leaders with whom he dealt as a manager, and they respected him as a fair and decent man. And I remember him having his doubts about the Tories in the dying days of the Major administration: on a walk to the paper shop, he told me that he thought the British people were right to want a change, though he didn’t think they were ready to vote Labour.) Perhaps I should have been more honest and spoken up for what I believed in; but I’ve always preferred a quiet life, and I was keen to fit in and be accepted by my in-laws, rather than be characterised by them as a wild radical.
Over time, my father-in-law and I learned to accommodate ourselves to each other in other ways too. I don't know whether he mellowed with age, or I simply got better at those wretched practical tasks, but by the end I was a regular recipient of his praise, and looked forward to his ‘You've made a good job on it’, spoken in the country accent he retained to the end. Coming from such a perfectionist, I knew it was sincere. I shall miss him.
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Thursday, 11 June 2009
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Monday, 8 June 2009
Barack Obama is weaving the pamphleteer into the fabric of America's twenty-first century. On the eve of his inauguration, Obama declared his hope that "the dream of our founders will live on in our time." But which of the founders would be worthy of quotation in the inaugural address, to be heard by all the world as an affirmation of that dream's highest values? A slaveholder president? A drafter of the Constitution, which compromised the ideal that all men are created equal? No, Obama turned to the outlier who recognized not only what America was at its founding but what it might be. Speaking of a "return to these truths" of the American experiment, the new president invoked Paine as an inspiration for our times: "Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet...it." Obama quotes Paine frequently, recognizing--implicitly if not yet explicitly, as some of us hope he will--that no founder anticipated his presidency or the true meaning of the word "change" as well as the itinerant rebel who promised that "America ever is what she thinks herself to be."
Saturday, 6 June 2009
Whether or not such resolutions can be implemented, or have been declared void, their adoption is a violation of the democratic principle that the union ought to represent its membership.
It will be said that the UCU, on behalf of its membership, and on behalf of the academic community in Britain, would wish to push for an academic boycott of Israel, but is prevented from doing so by legal means.
This claim is entirely false. The members have not supported such a proposal, and they have not been asked their views.
In their reaction to Jon's resignation, Norman Geras and Eve Gerrard speak for many:
Jon's presence on the executive council meant that there was a courageous voice trying to bring the union to an understanding of what it was doing, and how ruinous for union values, and for the membership, its trajectory was and is. That voice is now gone from the NEC, which is even more than before given over to the pernicious ideology of the SWP and its sympathizers, who are utterly unrepresentative of the Union membership and of academics more broadly.
Honour to Jon, who has fought with great resilience and intelligence for the preservation of democracy, academic freedom and anti-racism in the union; dismay and a sense of chill for academics - Jewish and others - who share those values; yet deeper discredit for the union itself, whose overwhelming and febrile obsessions about Israel and 'Zionists' may now be irremediable.